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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:25, November 01, 2005
Sri Lankan president says country's int'l image changed
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Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is due to end her presidency in mid-December, said Monday she has changed Sri Lanka's international image during her two terms.

Addressing a public rally in Bibile in the central part of the island, Kumaratunga said when she was elected president in 1994, Sri Lanka's international image had taken a battering due to the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers and a rebellion launched by the leftist extremists.

"The word peace was unheard of until I came in," said the president, adding that she had taken the initiative for a negotiated settlement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE) aimed at ending the long drawn out separatist armed conflict.

Kumaratunga was elected with a massive 62 percent mandate in the presidential election of 1994 with a larger percentage of minority Tamils opting for her as their leader.

She was re-elected president in 1999 and just three days ahead of the poll she survived an assassination attempt by the Tamil Tigers.

The Tigers were unhappy with her "war for peace" strategy after direct talks between the two sides had failed.

In 2000 she formulated a new constitution outlining a framework of autonomy for the Tamils in a federal structure but was unable to adopt it due to hard-line Sinhala majority pressure and a non co-operative opposition.

She named the incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse as her party's presidential candidate for the Nov. 17 poll but does not see eye to eye with Rajapakse for his deals with the leftist JVP or the People's Liberation Front and the all Buddhist monk party the JHU or the heritage party.

She warned that it would be disastrous to cooperate with extremist political elements in trying to tackle the country's ethnic conflict.

Kumaratunga is widely believed to remain in the political arena as the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Source: Xinhua

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